Sunday, February 17, 2013

Some of the Oscar-Nominated Doc. Shorts and Quartet

A scene from Kings Point, nominated for
Best Documentary Short Film
In a further attempt to see as many of the Oscar nominated films as possible and thereby clean up in the Oscar pool at a friend's party, we drove all the way to Rhinecliff, NY from our weekend place in Stockport. Upstate Films was showing Program B of the Oscar Nominated Documentaries Shorts at 1PM and then Quartet with Maggie Smith at 3PM. My partner Jerry was not interested in the short docs, so he would drive around while I saw the docs, and we'd see Quartet together. Program B was only 83 mins. Anyway, I get there and they start showing the WRONG movie. Instead of Redemption, the first film in Program B, they screen Kings Point, the first short in Program A. (A consists of Kings Point, Innocent, Mondays at Racines; Program B is Redemption and Open Heart) I think OK, so they'll show Program A and I'll just catch Program B at IFC in the city.

But then after Kings Point is finished, Redemption comes on. Now I think, Well, this is still OK, so now they'll screen all of program B (which is only two shorts) and I can still see the rest of Program A in the city. I'll just have to watch Kings Point twice. Then Redemption finishes and the lights come up. It's over. I go into the lobby and ask the manager "Did you start to show the wrong one?" Yes, they apologized. On Monday, they'll screen the missing ones from A and B. But I won't be in Rhinecliff then, I'm going back to NYC tomorrow morning. If I want to see all five, I have to sit through A and B at IFC and watch Kings Point and Redemption twice. Should I have asked for my money back? Should I have said "You don't understand, I need to see all the nominated shorts and this way I'll have to spend twice as much to see them, plus the admission is more expensive in Manhattan."

As you can imagine, the Upstate Films staff was not moved to refund even a partial portion of my admission. Maybe I should have pressed harder and said, "You advertised Redemption and Open Heart, I didn't want to see Kings Point." Oh well, at least I've seen most of the nominated films and that's more than most Oscar viewers can boast. I'll try to fit in the other shorts before next week.

Kings Point profiled a retirement community in Florida and traced the relationships that develop among the residents as they play cards, visit the mall, and engage in activities. It was actually very moving, particularly the sequences where some of the women address the camera directly and are brutally honest about their situation of being away from their families in the North and not having real friends for fear of losing them to illness.

Redemption focused on people who earn nickles by collecting cans and bottles from the streets of NYC. I see these people every day and it was heartbreaking to hear them tell their stories. The common thread was there are no jobs and this is all they can do to survive. One pair of can-collecting friends echoed another couple in Kings Point, there is no one else and they lean on each other.

Pauline Collins and Maggie Smith in Quartet
The theme repeated itself in Quartet, but in much nicer surroundings. This Dustin Hoffman-directed feature is set in a retirement home for musicians, many of them famous opera stars. The home is a gorgeous castle-like mansion in the beautiful English countryside. Maggie Smith is at her dry-witted best, there is a cast of superlative British character actors, and it doesn't approach the real desolation and loneliness of old age and being on the fringes of society displayed in the documentary shorts.

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